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Liberty spoils new coach David White's Blue Springs debut

By Bill Althaus
Blue Springs receiver Demerus Walker (19) leaps for a catch in the season opener against Liberty Friday at Peve Stadium. Blue Springs fell behind 37-7 at halftime and fell 46-28 to the Blue Jays.

The first Blue Springs High School football game in the David White era featured a solid second half in which the Wildcats outscored the visiting Liberty Blue Jays 21-9.

The first half was an entirely different story.

White’s squad will have plenty to work on this week as Liberty took a 37-7 lead into the halftime locker room and came away with a 46-28 Suburban Big Eight Conference victory.

“I was proud of the way the guys came back in the second half,” White said by phone, as COVID-19 precautions prevented in-person postgame interviews. “We looked good defensively and we put some points on the scoreboard. But that first half was embarrassing – for all of us – and it gives us a lot to work on this week.”

Blue Springs running back DeAndre Thomas (20) is brought down by Liberty defensive back Ricky Ahumaraeze (1) in Friday's season opener at Peve Stadium. Liberty went on to a 46-28 win.

Liberty’s Alek Rottjabk started the explosive first half for the Blue Jays by kicking a 37-yard field goal after a 15-yard touchdown run was called back because of a motion penalty.

Two minutes later, after the ball was snapped over Wildcats quarterback Patrick Maloney’s outstretched hands, Liberty’s Nchang Ndifor recovered the ball in the end zone and it was 10-0 midway through the first period.

After Maloney fumbled on the 29-yard line, Blue Jays quarterback Luke Smith hit Caden Dennis for a 40-yard scoring strike and the Cats were down 17-0.

It got worse in the second quarter as Smith and Kyle Griffith connected on a 23-yard scoring pass play, and Jack Horn picked up another Blue Springs fumble and returned it 37 yards to make the score 30-0 with 8:56 left in the game.

Liberty defenders Jack Horn, center back, and Jalen Weston, right, strip the ball from Blue Springs quarterback Patrick Maloney in the season opener Friday at Peve Stadium. Liberty built a big lead and went on to a 46-28 victory.

“It was like bad snap, touchdown, passing touchdown, fumble return for a score – boom, boom, boom,” White explained. “We have to coach better and our guys have to play better, and we all know that.

“We have some very good players and it’s our job as coaches to coach them up and get them ready for every game.”

While the game looked like a rout at that point, the Blue Springs offense rallied and put together a solid scoring drive behind J.J. Johnson, who replaced Maloney at quarterback.

Sophomore running back Lamana Tapusoa capped a 51-yard drive with a 2-yard run to put the first points of the 2020 season on the scoreboard for Blue Springs.

“We put J.J. in there to shake things up,” White said. “Patrick is our quarterback – he’s a good leader with a strong skill set – but we had to do something and J.J. got us going.”

The Wildcats then kicked off with a squib kick, and Liberty’s up man, Caden Dennis, returned the ball for a 67-yard touchdown to make the score 37-7 at halftime.

Blue Springs defensive lineman Beay Stephens (70) puts pressure on Liberty quarterback Luke Smith (7) in Friday's game at Peve Stadium. Liberty went on to claim a 46-28 victory.

An energized Blue Springs team left the locker room at halftime and Maloney, who returned to play quarterback, hit Jaxson McIntyre on a slant pass that turned into a 43-yard touchdown.

Rottjabk answered with a 24-yard field goal to make it 40-14 at 7:49 of the third quarter.

Dennis then scored his second touchdown of the game, picking off Maloney and returning it 25 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked and that would be the final points of the night for the Blue Jays.

Blue Springs scored the final two touchdowns on McIntyre’s second touchdown reception of the night, a 79-yard pass from Maloney, and a 1-yard carry by Tapusoa.

Because of COVID-19 precautions, players were not made available for comment following the game.

Maloney finished the game 8 of 16 for 137 yards and two touchdowns. DeAndre Thomas was the leading rusher for the Cats, carrying the ball 14 times for 150 yards.

“We have a lot to work on this week and I know our guys are going to work hard,” White said, “and our coaches are going to work hard. We’re all in this together.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Wildcats as they travel to Raymore-Peculiar next Friday to face a Panthers team that defeated Rockhurst – and its new head coach, former Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe – 35-26 in the season opener.

Blue Springs quarterback Patrick Maloney (17) tries to scramble away from a host of Liberty defenders in Friday's season opener at Oeve Stadium. The Wildcats fell behind 37-7 at halftime and went on to lose 46-28.
Liberty running back Wentric Williams III (20) sheds Blue Springs tackler Jackson Boyd (15) in Friday's season opener at Peve Stadium. Liberty built a big lead and held on for a 46-28 victory.